Face Off: Silverado vs. Tombstone

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Last week’s Face-Off column put the two most popular X-MEN movies (before DAYS OF FUTURE PAST) against each other, and the majority of you disagreed with the notion that X-MEN: FIRST CLASS would be preferable to X2: X-MEN UNITED.

This weekend, “Family Guy” mastermind Seth MacFarlane pays a visit to the Old West in the new comedy A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. Let’s take a more serious look at the sixguns and tumbleweeds genre with a couple of modern classic Westerns, SILVERADO and TOMBSTONE.

(Please note: Face Off is an opinion column. We’re not using any actual science to prove or disprove anything. It’s just for fun.)

In an untamed Old West town, four principled men deal with nefarious outlaws
In an untamed Old West town, four principled men deal with nefarious outlaws
Misfit friends Emmett (Scott Glenn), Paden (Kevin Kline), Mal (Danny Glover), and charming wild card Jake (Kevin Costner)
Legendary lawman Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), his brothers Virgil and Morgan (Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton), and charming wild card Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer)
Former criminal turned ruthless sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy) and his greasy psychopath henchman Tyree (Jeff Fahey), and callous cattle rancher McKendrick (Ray Baker) and his small army of enforcers
The Cowboys’ honcho “Curly Bill” Brocius (Powers Boothe) and his serpentine gunslinger Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), and their gang of vicious desperadoes
Beleaguered frontier settler and recent widow Hannah (Rosanna Arquette), although there’s more spark from the platonic relationship between Paden and diminutive saloon manager Stella (Linda Hunt)
Wyatt ditches his laudanum-addicted wife (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) to chase a spontaneous traveling actress (Dana Delaney)
Jake sneaks up on Tyree and guns him down while Emmett plants his horse’s hooves across McKendrick’s head, and Paden has a traditional Western duel with Cobb on the deserted main street of Silverado
Wyatt blasts away at Curly Bill in a river battle and Doc later steps in to take on Ringo, but the event that sets it all in motion is the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, whose previous credits included script work on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and RETURN OF THE JEDI, and writing/directing THE BIG CHILL and BODY HEAT

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II director George P. Cosmatos – although star Kurt Russell later admitted that he himself was actually the puppet master calling the shots

(Kevin Jarre, who wrote the script, was initially directing the film but was fired early in the production)

In addition to Jeff Goldblum as a shifty gambler and John Cleese as a tetchy sheriff, we get BLADE RUNNER replicant Brion James, Ray Baker (the doctor who implanted Arnie in TOTAL RECALL), James Gammon (MAJOR LEAGUE), known for his gruff drawl and walrus mustache, Earl Hindman, the fence-obscured neighbor Wilson on the sitcom “Home Improvement”, Richard Jenkins (CABIN IN THE WOODS) in his first movie role, and Amanda Wyss, who dumped John Cusack in BETTER OFF DEAD
TOMBSTONE is character actor heaven. Even besides Billy Zane as a flamboyant theatre performer, Billy Bob Thornton (getting slapped around by Wyatt Earp), “Lost” star Terry O’Quinn as Tombstone’s mayor and Jason Priestly as a young deputy, the Cowboys are a veritable wealth of “That Guy”: Stephen Lang, Michael Rooker, Thomas Haden Church, John Corbett, Robert John Burke and Paul Ben-Victor (most recently seen on HBO’s “True Detective”). And then screen legend Charlton Heston shows up for a cameo
Kevin Costner and Kevin Kline would both later revisit SILVERADO in a sense — the town’s set was reused for WYATT EARP (which reunited Costner with writer-director Kasdan) and WILD WILD WEST
Willem Dafoe was originally cast as Doc Holliday but Disney wanted Val Kilmer or wouldn’t release the movie (producer Andrew Vajna also floated the idea of Russell playing Holliday with Richard Gere as Wyatt)
Regardless of the outcome here, the sprawling and deliberate SILVERADO remains a great, gorgeous film with memorable characters and performances. But it simply can’t compete with Russell’s inevitable ferocity, Kilmer’s iconic Doc Holliday (“I’m your huckleberry”) and the over-the-top villainy on display. Both movies are wonderful, resilient examples of Westerns made at a time when it wasn’t exactly the most popular genre in Hollywood (although UNFORGIVEN rekindled interest), filled with familiar faces and perfectly capturing the tone and aesthetic of classic Westerns, but TOMBSTONE is the rootin’ tootin’-est of the pair.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?


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